Press Release – Conditions of shipbreaking workers in India remain appalling

Local authorities fail in enforcing national labour laws

 

Today, The New Indian Express reveals that conditions for the shipbreaking workers at the beach of Alang, India, have not improved. Based on the findings of recent independent research carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, the article highlights the lack of protective equipment, inadequate health facilities and far too long working hours. Hundreds of vessels are taken apart with little or no regard to safety, the newspaper says. 

 

The TISS report, a follow-up of Associate Professor Dr Geetanjoy Sahu’s first report published in 2014, reveals continued serious breaches and lack of effective enforcement of national laws aimed at the protection of workers’ rights. Data collected by the Platform and Toxic Watch Alliance shows that there have been more than 500 fatal accidents since 1983 at the Alang shipbreaking yards – and at least 48 since 2014. According to the TISS report, more than half of the total workers interviewed said they had been injured at their workplace in the past one year. 39 per cent of these workers informed that they had not received any medical support; 52 per cent did not get any wage or compensation when they were on leave due to injury; and, 18 per cent continued to work despite their injuries as they were worried to loose wages. 

 

The lack of proper medical facilities in Alang is of particular concern. There are only three simple health clinics, two of them run by the Red Cross Society and a small one run by a private doctor. Neither have necessary equipment to treat major and life threatening injuries. It is, furthermore, worrying that the workers who participate in the trade union activities stated that they prefer confining their role to address basic issues such as sanitation and water supply, rather than demand a halt to hazardous working conditions and adequate medical treatment and accident compensation. An alarming 37 per cent of the interviewed workers do not even want to participate in the trade union activities as they feel it might threaten their employment. 

 

The lack of a database created or maintained by the district authorities about the number of workers in the ship breaking yards renders it difficult to ensure the welfare of the workforce in Alang. Whilst most are migrant workers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the TISS report reveals that they do not receive housing facilities even though they are entitled to under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act 1979. Instead, they continue to live in and around the yards in rented shanty dwellings without adequate facilities for potable water, sanitation and electricity. 

 

"There is no lack of laws in India to protect both workers and the environment from the many harms caused by the unsustainable practices in Alang. It is high time that the Indian government enforces these laws to ensure that the industry embraces truly safe and green recycling practices off the beach."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

India’s recently approved Ship Recycling Bill (2019) and ratification of the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention risk undermining existing laws and fail in establishing an effective framework for improving industry practices. The standards set by the Hong Kong Convention are weak, and have also been strongly criticised for simply rubberstamping beaching, a method which is banned in major ship owning countries.

Alang, India 2018 - © REUTERS / Amit Dave

 

 

Press Release – NGOs win FPSO North Sea Producer case

Bangladesh Court denounces illegalities and lack of transparency in shipbreaking sector

 

On 14 November the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declared the import, beaching and breaking of the infamous FPSO North Sea Producer illegal. The judgment was issued in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Shipbreaking Platform member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). The Court further noted with dismay the incessant violations of national and international laws by the shipbreaking industry, and passed several directions upon the government to regulate the sector in line with earlier rulings. 

 

Already in August 2017, the Bangladesh Court had issued an injunction on the ongoing breaking of the North Sea Producer based on the detection of radiation levels higher than permitted. It has now directed national agencies to monitor the breaking of what is left of the FPSO without any involvement of Janata Steel, the yard that had beached the vessel in 2016. The Department of Environment has also been directed to claim compensation from the yard for having violated national environmental rules.    

"The judgment is important in that it has expressly called the import, beaching and breaking permits illegal, and for the first time a breaker has been put off the breaking operation and the government has been given the steering. It is even more important because it has required the government to regulate the dubious roles of the cash buyers and restrict import from grey- and black-listed flag registries. This will surely make it difficult for the unscrupulous players to treat Bangladesh as a dumping ground."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

Noting the plethora of illegalities and the lack of transparency in the sector, the Court directed authorities to i) subject cash buyers and agents to stricter scrutiny, including a detailed recording of their particulars, and to hold them accountable to the strictest sanctions; ii) regulate the import of vessels registered under “last voyage” grey- or black-listed flags which are particularly popular with cash buyers, including Comoros, Palau and St. Kits and Nevis, and; iii) ensure that no vessel is imported without proper verifiable pre-cleaning certificates and declarations of in-built hazardous wastes, and/or by yards that do not fully comply with the requirements for obtaining an Environmental Clearance.

 

Whilst the recent ruling on the illegal import of the North Sea Producer stresses the systemic illegalities of the entire ship breaking sector, and also highlights the deficiencies of local agencies responsible for the enforcement of environmental and labour laws, the illegal export of the vessel from the UK is still being investigated by UK environmental agency DEFRA. After winning the case on the illegal import and beaching of the North Sea Producer, owned by Danish A.P. Moeller Maersk and Brazilian Odebrecht, NGOs now urge the UK to hold the ship owners and cash buyer GMS accountable for the illegal export of the toxic FPSO. As previously reported, the North Sea Producer was allowed to leave the UK in 2016 based on claims that it would be further operationally used. 

"Providing fraudulent documentation in order to circumvent existing waste export bans is a criminal offence in Europe and internationally. Maersk and Odebrecht were well acquainted with cash buyer GMS’ notorious trafficking of waste ships. They were also well aware of the illegality of selling the vessel for scrapping in South Asia. This is not a case of poor human rights due diligence, but one where companies collude to earn big bucks on the back of people and the environment. We demand that authorities in the UK follow suit and establish the responsibility of all parties involved."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
The North Sea Producer beached in Chattogram – © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2018

Record-breaking 90% of end-of-life tonnage scrapped on South Asian beaches

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 744 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2018. Of these vessels, 518 were broken down on tidal mudflats in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to a record-breaking 90,4% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally. 

"The figures of 2018 are shocking. No ship owner can claim to be unaware of the dire conditions at the beaching yards, still they massively continue to sell their vessels to the worst yards to get the highest price for their ships. The harm caused by beaching is real. Workers risk their lives, suffer from exposure to toxics, and coastal ecosystems are devastated. Ship owners have a responsibility to sell to recycling yards that invest in their workers and environment."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 35 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The Platform documented at least 14 workers that died in Alang, making 2018 one of one of the worse years for Indian yards in terms of accident records in the last decade. Another 20 workers died and 12 workers were severely injured in the Bangladeshi yards. In Pakistan, local sources confirmed 1 death and 27 injuries. Seven injuries were linked to yet another fire that broke out on-board a beached tanker. 

 


DUMPERS 2018 – Worst practices

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, GREECE and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA top the list of country dumpers in 2018. UAE owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2018: there were 61 ships in total. Greek owners, beached 57 vessels out of a total of 66 sold for demolition. American owners closely followed with 53 end-of-life vessels broken up on South Asian tidal mudflats. 

 

The ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to the South Korean liner Sinokor Merchant Marine. The company, which has been loss-making and is about to merge its container operations with Heung-A, sold 11 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2018: eight vessels ended up in Bangladesh and three in India, where in April, during the demolition of Sinokor’s PLATA GLORY at Leela Ship Recycling Yard [1], a worker died hit by a falling iron plate. 

 

Norwegian Nordic American Tankers (NAT) - incorporated in Bermuda and stock-listed in New York - is runner-up for the ‘worst dumper’ prize. Last year, NAT reported having earned USD 80 million for the sale of eight vessels for breaking. Three were sold to Alang for breaking and five were sold to breakers in Chittagong. According to local sources in Bangladesh, the cutting operations of these ships started without required government authorisations. The sale of two additional vessels to yards in Bangladesh with particularly poor track records and where two workers were killed in 2018, prompted Norwegian pension fund KLP to blacklist the company. 

 

Seven vessels were sold to beaching yards for dirty and dangerous scrapping by German owner Dr Peters GmbH & Co KG. According to local sources, fitter Md Samiul lost his life while scrapping Dr Peters’ DS WARRIOR in December 2018.

 

Other known shipping companies that in 2018 sold their vessels for the highest price to the worst breaking yards include: Chevron, Costamare, H-Line, Louis plc, Seabulk, SOVCOMFLOT, Teekay, Zodiac Group and CMB. Belgian CMB is still under investigation for the export of the MINERAL WATER to Bangladesh in 2016.


With the oil and gas sector seeing a downturn in the last couple of years, the Platform has documented an increase in offshore units that have gone for scrap. Out of the 138 oil and gas units which have been identified as demolished in 2018 alone, 96 ended up on the beaches of South Asia. Figures include 81 small-sized tug/supply ships and 33 semi-submersible platforms. Noble Corp, ENSCO, Tidewater, Diamond Offshore and Petrobras are amongst the biggest offshore players that dump their assets on the South Asian beaches. While most assets were exported from either East Asia or America, Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS are under investigation in Scotland for having attempted to illegally export three platforms that had operated in the North Sea and were cold-stacked in Cromarty Firth. The platforms have been under arrest in Scotland since January 2018.

 

Ship owners are facing increased pressure from investors and credit providers to stop selling their ships to beaching yards. In early 2018, Scandinavian pension funds KLP and GPFG were the first to divest from four shipping companies due to their beaching practices. Today, banks, pension funds and other financial institutions are actively taking a closer look at how they might contribute to a shift towards better ship recycling practices off the beach, taking into account social and environmental criteria, not just financial returns, when selecting asset values or clients.

 

Losing financing and clients, however, should not be the only concern of ship owners who continue to use dirty and dangerous scrap yards. In 2018, and for the first time ever, a ship owner was held criminally liable for having illegally traded four end-of-life ships to Indian beaching yards. Several other cases of illegal traffic are under investigation. These cases focus not only on the liability of the ship owner, but also on the responsibility of insurers, brokers and maritime warranty surveyors. By unravelling the murky practices of shipbreaking, which involve the use of middle men, or cash buyers, and flags of convenience such as Comoros, Palau and St. Kitts & Nevis, these cases highlight the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing business partners.

"Clean and safe solutions are already available. Responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, recycle their vessels off the beach. The EU maintains a list of clean and safe ship recycling facilities [2]. More ships need to be diverted towards these sites."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2018, click here. *

For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2018, click here.*

 

* The data gathered by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is sourced from different outlets and stakeholders, and is cross-checked whenever possible. The data upon which this information is based is correct to the best of the Platform’s knowledge, and the Platform takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. The Platform will correct or complete data if any inaccuracy is signaled. All data which has been provided is publicly available and does not reveal any confidential business information.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] The Plata Glory was beached in December 2017 at Leela Ship Recycling yard. Leela holds a so-called Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention issued by ClassNK and claims to be offering “green recycling”.   

 

[2] The EU has published a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. 

 

Where ships go to die – Winner of the Public Eye Investigation Award

Where ships go to die

Switzerland and the uncontrolled dismantling of ships

Decommissioned deep-sea vessels are floating toxic waste. Their disposal is laborious and costly, and regarded as a menace by those who want to protect both the workers and the environment. The more unscrupulous companies have their ships scrapped on South Asian beaches, where they poison the waters and endanger the wreckers. Swiss companies are among those who save a lot of money that way.

 

 

 

GIE GORIS - EDITOR IN CHIEF - MO* MAGAZINE

 

 

Research partner: Nicola Mulinaris - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Financial supporter: Public Eye

 

 

The road to Alang is lined with shops and warehouses selling items that come from ships that used to sail across oceans: oak desks, faux crystal chandeliers, life vests and lifeboats, ropes, electric cables and switches, leather chairs, paintings, giant generators and motors – just about anything you can name. This is ship recycling in its most literal sense, even though these commodities are in reality no more than surplus products. The real reasons why huge ships end up on the beaches of Alang are their steel hulls and frames. Steel is where the real profits are to be made.

 

Alang and neighbouring Sosiya used to be simple fishing villages on India’s north-western coast. Today, they are famous – or rather infamous – because shipbreaking yards are now taking up kilometers of beaches along the Gulf of Khambhat, where the Arabian Sea cuts deep into the state of Gujarat. These shores have thus become boat cemeteries. 

 

A few days before we arrived in Alang, in early September 2018, two men died while working at the RKB Group-owned Honey Ship Breaking yard. Bhuddabhai Kudesha from Alang, and Ali Ahmed from Jharkhand, fell victim to an industry often seen as providing “the most dangerous jobs in the world”. The same yard was used less than a year ago by the Swiss company MSC to break up the MSC Alice. You can read more on this story below.

 

NO TRESPASSING!

The omnipresence of impressive images of ocean-going giants on Asian beaches could give the impression that the yards are quite accessible. This is not the case. Driving into Alang, a big blue banner welcomes visitors to the Alang-Sosiya Ship Recycling Yard, but it soon becomes clear that the welcome is conditional. Journalists, academics and foreigners can usually only enter with permission from officials in Gandhinagar, Gujarat’s capital. The procedure can take months, or even longer, and in the rare instances where permission is granted it comes with many restrictions that limit access. Not having this green light from Gandhinagar, we were stopped at our first attempt to visit Alang. The Gujarat Maritime Board allowed us to go on the roof of their building overlooking the yard, but even a carefully disguised attempt at a selfie was stopped in its tracks: “No pictures, sir!” So it was clear that one needs to be inventive and try to circumvent the Gujarat Maritime Board checkpoint, persuade a yard owner to give the go-ahead, or have an extremely well connected liaison person who can introduce you. We combined these three conditions to get closer to the breaking yards. 

 

 

Shipbreaking yards in Alang, India - © Amit Dave 2018

 

 

Bhuddabhai’s last day

Bhuddabhai was 33. On August 31 2018, as on every other working day, he woke up around six in the morning, when the first light penetrates the darkness and ends the silence in his village. His eight-year-old son and two daughters, aged six and four, were still sleeping, but his wife was already up and preparing their breakfast. Six years ago, Bhuddabhai had managed to get a job on the shipbreaking yards of Alang, situated about three kilometers from their house. He knew how rare it was for a Kholi – originally a fisherman’s caste but now mostly day laborers in seasonal agriculture – to find work in that industry.

 

On the morning of the accident, Bhuddabhai was busy removing toilets from the MV Ocean Gala. His employer would later sell these items to the second-hand shops that line the road to Alang. It wasn't a particularly well-paid job, but it certainly made a better living than the farm work his father and younger brother Rajabhai did. Bhuddabhai would often lend them a helping hand on Sundays or before he left for the yards on his Honda motorcycle at 7.30 in the morning. On that day, Bhuddabhai took, for the last time, the dusty road from his home to the Honey Ship Breaking Yard.

 

We visited Alang only a few days later, and the exact circumstances of the accident were still murky when we spoke to his family. What transpires is that a piece of the hull must have broken off unexpectedly, taking Bhuddabhai with it as well as Ali Ahmed, the gas cutter who was cutting through the steel on the ship's ninth floor to create an extra exit. None of the workers were wearing safety belts. Nor were they required to, according to the shipyard’s owner. They were working inside the ship; only the cutters working on the ship’s exterior must wear safety belts.

 

Cruise ship MV Ocean Gala in Alang, India - © Amit Dave 2018

 

 

An endless list of problems

To better understand the conditions under which breakers work in Alang, we met Vidyadhar Rane, who is secretary-general of the union trying to organize workers there. In addition to the safety problems on the sites, there are many essential points that should be improved or obtained: “Housing. Toilets. Canteens. Correctly paid overtime. Paid holidays. Health and accident insurance for everyone. Adequate hospital capacity.” The latter can make the difference between life and death when disaster strikes. When Bhuddabhai had the accident at Honey Ship Breaking Yard, he was brought to the public hospital in Bhavnagar, a provincial town more than 50 kilometers from Alang. It takes more than an hour to cover that distance on the narrow two-lane road, full of speed bumps, stray cows, trucks and dangerous traffic. There is a small, 10-bed clinic run by the Indian Red Cross and the Alang Hospital, which has 20 beds, but these do not have the equipment to deal with serious injuries. These infrastructures are completely insufficient to meet the needs of almost 160 yards in Alang, on which 15,000 to 30,000 workers dismantle huge ships under extreme conditions, risking their limbs and lives. The numbers given vary with each interview, and official statistics are not available, since most labor is informal anyway.

 

 

A billion rupees industry

“There is no union in Alang,” says Nikhil Gupta, co-owner of Rudra Green Ship Recycling, one of the “better” shipbreaking yards in Alang. “And that makes doing business in Gujarat so nice: we have no unions because everyone is on the same page.” Gupta makes this surprising – and patently untrue – statement at the end of an interview during which he has tried to explain the economic laws of demand and supply that govern the world of globalized shipping and shipbreaking, or as industry captains like him prefer to call it: “recycling”. Although the other yard owners we speak to aren’t as disparaging, no-one has anything resembling a formal relation with a union. Nor do they engage in collective bargaining at company or sectoral level. “When there are problems, we deal with the workers directly. Much faster that way” says Nitin Kanakiya, the secretary of the Ship Recycling Industry Association (SRIA) and the owner of Triveni Yard, in Alang.

 

“The laws to protect workers are insufficient and are not enforced,” explains Dr Sahu Geetanjoy, a researcher at the Tata Institute for Social Studies in Mumbai, and one of just a few academics studying labor conditions in the shipbreaking industry. The government’s own financial interests may explain its lack of commitment to enforcing labor and environmental rules, he says. Through taxes and the leasing of land on the beaches, the shipbreaking industry contributes around 7 billion rupees, or about €87.5 million, to the Gujarat state coffers per year.

 

When we asked Bhuddabhai’s family what they expect from the owner of the shipbreaking yard, the answer came instantly: “Nothing.” Their answer reflects centuries of humiliation and marginalization; Kholis have never been able to expect anything from the wealthy or the upper castes. Bhuddabhai’s brother and nephew still don’t know whether the family will receive any compensation. Raj Bansal, the Honey Ship Breaking Yard owner, promises that the family will receive about €6,250, an amount that corresponds to three years of work on the yard. But a pension for the widow, Bansal says, will not be provided. Added to the immense pain of having lost her husband and the father of her three children is the destitution, more desperate than anything she has known so far.

 

Every year around 1000 ships are scrapped.

65 to 75 % of them end up on one of the three breaking beaches in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Bhuddabhai's tragic story evokes the threat to the lives of so many others; tens of thousands of men who, to support themselves and their families, dismantle ships with little or no protection on the beaches of South Asia. According to data published by the Brussels-based international NGO Shipbreaking Platform, every year around 1000 ships are scrapped, and 65 to 75 percent of them end up on one of the three breaking beaches in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

Once a ship is destined for dismantling, it is considered to be hazardous waste under international law, specifically the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

 

 

Weakening and circumventing laws

Click on the images below to discover the legal framework's weaknesses and how ship owners use loopholes to circumvent legislation.

 

UNEP

IMO

EU

UNEP Basel Convention

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) adopted the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal in 1992 following numerous hazardous waste trafficking scandals in the late 1980’s. The Basel Convention, which has been transposed into EU law by the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, controls the international trade of hazardous wastes. It is relevant for ship dismantling as a ship, which usually contains hazardous materials within its structure, is considered hazardous waste when destined for breaking. The Basel Convention, ratified by 187 countries, remains the only international legislation in force that aims at protecting developing countries from the dumping of toxic ships. Still, the shipping industry has exploited loopholes in the Basel regime and opted for the more profitable breaking of ships on South Asian beaches. Due to the fact that a vessel becomes waste only when the intent to dispose of it is evident, to escape the Basel regime it is sufficient for ship owners to hide their true intentions from the authorities of the exporting state - the state from where the vessel leaves for its final voyage to the scrap yard.

IMO Hong Kong Convention

When the Basel Convention State Parties started discussing more effective ways of regulating the trade of toxic ships – such as pinpointing the responsibility of countries where ship owners are headquartered – the United Nations’ specialized agency International Maritime Organization (IMO) decided to start working on a new legally binding convention specifically on ship recycling to be based instead on enforcement by the flag states. The resulting Hong Kong Convention (HKC) on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships is not expected to enter into force before many years, since, to date, it has been ratified only by six countries. Civil society has been joined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics, European policy makers and developing countries in denouncing the HKC for setting low standards that would rubberstamp current dirty and dangerous practices on South Asian beaches.

 

EU Ship Recycling Regulation

At the European level, due to the ease by which ship owners have been circumventing existing waste laws, a new regulation on ship recycling was adopted. From 31 December 2018, EU-flagged vessels can only be recycled in facilities compliant with the regulation’s requirements and included in the European List of ship recycling facilities. The EU regulation sets higher standards than the HKC: the beaching method is not allowed and requirements related to downstream toxic waste management as well as labor rights are included.

 

The most dangerous job in the world

In 2015, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned about the dreadful consequences of this practice: “Shipbreaking has grown into a major occupational and environmental health problem. It is amongst the most dangerous of occupations, with unacceptably high levels of fatalities, injuries and work-related diseases.”

 

According to The Indian Supreme Court, the incidence of fatal accidents in shipbreaking (two in every 1,000 workers) is higher than that in mining (0.34 per 1,000 workers).

In India, data from the Gujarat Industrial Safety and Health Department show that at least 470 fatal accidents occurred in Alang between 1983, the start of the local shipbreaking industry, and 2013, indicates Dr Geetanjoy of the Tata Institute for Social Studies. “There is no central and reliable register of accidents in the yards,” he explains. But according to the Indian Supreme Court, the incidence of fatal accidents in shipbreaking (two in every 1000 workers) is higher than that in mining (0.34 per 1,000 workers), which is nevertheless considered to be “the most accident-prone industry.”

 

In 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on toxic wastes already described in a report the long-term risks of shipbreaking, a time-bomb: “In shipbreaking yards, workers are often exposed to toxic chemicals including asbestos dust and fibres, highly toxic industrial chemicals which have been banned for decades but are still present in ships, as well as lead, mercury, arsenic or cadmium in paints, coatings and electrical equipment. Workers are often without protective equipment that reduces exposure. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of developing slow-progressing but fatal diseases, which may not become apparent until many years after exposure.”

 

As in other sensitive sectors, the human and environmental costs of such practices are paid by poor countries. The current Special Rapporteur, Baskut Tuncak, is more explicit about the responsibility of the shipping industry, “which externalises impacts on poor workers and communities in developing countries”. In that sense, container ships and other vessels are, right to the end, sad symbols of the abuses of globalization.

 

 

Ecological disaster and the “gravity method”

The environmental consequences are also dramatic. In June 2016, the EU Directorate-General for the Environment published an overview of several studies, one of which clearly showed just how heavily the Alang–Sosiya natural environment has been polluted by copper, cobalt, manganese, lead, cadmium, nickel, zinc and mercury. The Commission also refers to a previous study, published in 2001, that found that mercury levels in Alang were 15,500 percent higher than at a control site, and 16,973 percent higher for petroleum hydrocarbons. The researchers also detected the presence of certain bacteria at high levels.

 

Questioned on this point, Dr Geetanjoy Sahu, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, complains about the dire lack of research into the state of fish populations, groundwater, air quality and noise pollution in the region. “The government makes it all but impossible to work independently in Alang, even for Indian researchers. That makes one wonder: what is it that needs to be hidden? What interests need to be protected so desperately?”

 

Some of the pollution is directly related to what the shipbreaking industry calls the “gravity method”: this is when large parts of the ship are cut with a blowtorch and crash down on the beach. The incredible impact of falling tons of steel combined with the process of cutting steel using very high-temperature gas flames causes often-toxic paints to be released into the sea and soil. The ships are broken during low tide and all the oil residues, heavy metals and toxic substances that aren’t cleaned up before high-tide are spread across the entire marine environment.

 

Scrapped blocks in the intertidal area in Alang, India - © Amit Dave 2018

 

 

“Europe is hypocritical”

However, all the site owners we interviewed have a common refrain: “Alang’s yards are well on track to becoming green, but the European companies lack serious commitment to the cause they preach.” Nithin Kanakiya, owner of Triveni ship recycling yard in Alang and the secretary of the local Ship Recycling Industry Association (SRIA), is even louder and clearer. “Europe is hypocritical. From one side, it demands the impossible in terms of salaries, insurances, safety and environmental protection, while from the other side their only interest is profit maximization, for which they are prepared to play one yard against the other,” he insists.

 

We asked Komalkant Sharma, the owner of the Leela Group of Companies, whether he looks at the big shippers for support: “When we find that ship owners are only interested in top dollars, then it becomes impossible for us to continue doing business with them. Leela aims to be better than the others in social and ecological terms, but that does not come for free. And that is why European ship owners should bear their share of responsibility and encourage the necessary investments by accepting lower prices for their vessels, or by engaging in the longer term with recycling companies. But the ship owners dump the responsibility on the recyclers.”

 

If Leela is considered to be one of the “best” yards in Alang, then it’s good to remember that Ravindra Chaudhari died there on Sunday, April 15 2018, while doing maintenance work. A sheet of steel, which was half cut out of the hull of the vessel Plata Glory, fell down.

 

 

A hell for (mostly) internal migrants

Many vessels are dismantled in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where labour and environmental conditions are even worse than at Alang. Mohamed Ali Shahin, who works for Young People in Action (YPSA) and is deeply involved in the shipbreaking issue, told us on the phone that on 10 November a worker at the SH Enterprise yard died while breaking the Ukraine-owned MV Velda. And that the day before another worker died while disassembling the Indian-owned Peri at the Golden Iron Works yard. Earlier this year, two workers died on the Zuma Enterprise yard; they were working on the MT EKTA, an oil tanker that, according to shipping databases, was sold to the breaker by the Swiss shipping company Navimar. Navimar bought the vessel that was operated by Maran Tankers, a subsidiary of Greek Anangel Shipping Group, in September 2017, only a month before it was brought to the beach at Chittagong, so it’s clear that the Swiss company acted as a conduit to scrap the ship, making a purely financial transaction.

"Zuma Enterprise is one of the worst yards in Chittagong. It has no safety measures, no compliance to international environmental standards and no waste management. Why would a Swiss company choose such an unsafe yard to cooperate with?"
MD Ali Shahin - YPSA

Zuma is not only unsafe, it’s also cheap with regard to workers’ health. “Their practice,” adds Shahin, “is to pay the family of a worker who died in an accident the legal minimum of 100.000 taka (a little over 1000 euros). But other yards would compensate such a tragic loss with 500.000 taka.”

 

 

19 fatalities in 2018, a new sad record

The government should do more to make it cleaner and safer, he argues, but it’s not just a Bengali responsibility. As he emphasizes: “European ship owners could do so much more to demand and stimulate safe and clean shipbreaking. They can enforce European standards and should invest, for instance, in waste-collection facilities. And, of course, they could start with cleaning out their ships of all the toxic materials before they even send them to South Asia.”

 

As in Alang, many of the shipbreaking workers in Chittagong are internal migrants who live in unsanitary accommodation. They work long hours, usually without labor contracts, and can take no holidays. The shipbreaking yards prevent trade unions from organizing the workers. In Chittagong, at least 15 workers were killed in 2017, while at least 22 suffered severe injuries. Provisional figures for 2018 indicate that 19 workers have lost their lives, the highest number in the past nine years. The majority of the deaths are caused by fires, falls from great heights, and workers being crushed by ship parts that come loose.

 

Shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, Bangladesh - © Studio Fasching 2017
Burns on worker's hands in Chittagong, Bangladesh - © Studio Fasching 2017

 

 

Switzerland is a global dumper, too

Although it has no access to the sea, Switzerland is home to big companies specializing in maritime chartering. Whereas Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) is well known among cruise lovers, most people have never heard of the other shipping companies, most of which are domiciled on the shores of Lake Geneva. Even less well known is the sad fact that the Swiss shipping sector also has a poor track record regarding the dismantling business in South Asia.

 

According to our calculations and based on a variety of industry sources, ninety Swiss-owned vessels ended up on beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan between 2009 and today. The names of the companies involved are on the record, but receive little publicity: Atlanship S.A., Doris Maritime Services S.A., FleetPro Passenger Ship Management AG, Lumar S.A., MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., Sallaum Group SA, Shipfin S.A., Sider Navi S.p.A., and Taunus Shipping S.A.

 

According to the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Switzerland ranks 20th in the world in terms of the number of ships owned. However, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports that, in terms of the number of ships scrapped on South Asian beaches, Switzerland rises in the ranking. Almost all Swiss ships end their working years in such conditions, making Switzerland one of the biggest polluters in terms of the irresponsible management of its old ships.

 

 

MSC does not walk its talk

 

Of the 90 Swiss-owned vessels scrapped on South Asian beaches in the last ten years, a stunning 80 belonged to MSC.

Of the 90 Swiss-owned vessels scrapped on South Asian beaches in the last ten years, a stunning 80 belonged to MSC, the second-biggest container shipping company in the world. This giant with a turnover of 27 billion euros in 2017 does not have to publish its numbers, since it’s a family owned and run company, headed by its Italian co-founder Gianluigi Aponte.

 

In 2009, he received the Neapolitan Excellence of the World award from the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and in 2013, the Cavaliere del Lavoro (Knight of Labor) honorary title from the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. To be considered for the title, candidates must have an impeccable record of civil and social accomplishments, and have abided by all tax laws, while paying particular attention to workers’ protection and assistance. More recently, in October 2018, MSC won the Greenest Ship Owner of the Year award at the annual Green Shipping Summit in Amsterdam. “MSC was commended for its efforts to promote the sustainable use of marine resources and investments in green technologies,” the company writes on its website.

 

A shipping company that, to quote their Chief Sustainability Officer, aims “to become the most sustainable, technologically advanced and customer-focused shipping line in the industry” while at the same time sending its decommissioned vessels to South Asian beaches, has some explaining to do. We therefore contacted MSC two weeks after they were honored with the Greenest Ship Owner Award 2018 and told them that we wished “to get the facts and numbers about ships sold for breaking/recycling and to understand the decision processes or criteria used by MSC.” The response from Geneva was brief: “Thank you for your interest in MSC’s environmental strategy. As of today, we decline to take part in your research.”

 

 

Inexistent standard

In MSC’s sustainability report there is only one reference to the issue: “Our ship recycling practice is another important area of emphasis for MSC, as it is strictly related to labor standards, environmental protection and human rights […] only recycling yards with IMO HKC standards (see box 3) , ISO 14001 (environment), ISO 30001 (recycling management) and OSHAS 18001 (health & safety) standards are selected for recycling at the end of the useful life of a ship.” It’s remarkable that MSC refers to ISO 30001 as one of the conditions for working with shipbreaking yards, as this ISO standard number does not actually exist! Or perhaps it’s symptomatic of the whole sustainability of its shipbreaking practice: big declarations, but no results?

 

We wanted to know specifically whether MSC could confirm that all these requirements are fulfilled by the yards in Alang used by that company. For a company that prides itself on its corporate social responsibility, the response was again disappointing: “We hereby confirm that we are not able to satisfy your request.”

 

 

Poort track record in Alang

The beach at Alang is where the business practices of MSC and the destiny of Bhuddabhai converge, although with a time lag. On 4 August 2009, the MSC Jessica caught fire while it was being disassembled on a beach in Alang, resulting in the deaths of six workers. In 2011, the container ship MSC Chitra collided with the Khalijia3 in the port of Mumbai. After a long effort to remove most of the containers from the ship, the MSC Chitra was sold to be scrapped in Alang. But after it became clear that the ship was too damaged to be towed even the relatively short distance to Alang, Indian authorities ordered that it be sunk outside of Indian territorial waters. In 2017, not even a year before Bhuddabhai’s accident, the MSC Alice was scrapped at the Honey Ship Breaking yard in Alang. Although its certifications suggest that the yard is one of the better ones in Alang, the accident on 31 August 2018, in which two workers died while dismantling a cruise ship, shows that such privately issued certificates claiming compliance with the weak standards of the Hong Kong Convention fail to combat even the worst dangers of shipbreaking.

 

© Pradeep Shukla 2015

 

 

This story, which has been published also by Public Eye, is just an extract of a bigger investigation. Click here or on the image below to access the full investigation report.

 

 

Shedding light on hidden facts can change the world: this strong belief led Public Eye to set up the Investigation Award on the occasion of its 50th birthday to support the work of journalists or NGOs that investigate the practices of companies and their harmful ramifications on developing or emerging countries.

 

A prestigious jury selected two projects from 55 proposals submitted from over 20 countries. They received crowdfunding – over 300 people contributed to our participative funding-raising campaign. They allowed Nicola Mulinaris, from the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Gie Goris of MO* magazine (Belgium), to carry out this investigation, and enabled Marie Maurisse to reveal the secret recipes of Swiss cigarette companies

 

 

MO* Magazine/NGO SBP/Public Eye - Behind the hypocrisy of better beaches

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2017

European ship owners top the list of global dumpers: the EU must do more to reverse this scandal

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 835 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2017. 543 were broken down – by hand – on the tidal beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan: amounting to 80,3% of all tonnage dismantled globally.

"The figures of 2017 are a sad testimony of the shipping industry’s unwillingness to act responsibly. The reality is that yards with infrastructure fit for the heavy and hazardous industry that ship recycling is, and that can ensure safe working conditions and containment of pollutants, are not being used by ship owners. It is particularly shameful that so many European shipping companies scrap their vessels on beaches. Their obvious lack of interest to ensure that shipbreaking workers around the world enjoy best available technologies, and that the environment is equally protected everywhere, clearly calls for additional pressure from authorities, shipping clients and financers."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The negative consequences of shipbreaking are real and felt by many. On the one hand, workers – often exploited migrants and some of them children – lose their life, suffer from injuries caused by fires, falling steel plates and the general unsafe working conditions, as well as from occupational diseases due to exposure to toxic fumes and materials. On the other hand, coastal ecosystems, and the local communities depending on them, are devastated by toxic spills and various pollutants leaking into the environment as a result of breaking vessels on beaches.

 

Despite the terrible accident that shook the international shipbreaking community in 2016, no lesson has been learned in Pakistan. In 2017, at least 10 workers lost their lives at the shipbreaking yards on the beach of Gadani. The Platform documented 15 deaths in the Bangladeshi yards last year, where also at least another 22 workers were seriously injured. Whilst international and local NGOs were repeatedly denied access to the Indian shipbreaking yards, the Platform was informed of at least eight fatal accidents in Alang in 2017.

 


DUMPERS 2017 - Worst practices

 

As in 2016, GERMANY and GREECE top the list of country dumpers in 2017. German owners, including banks and ship funds, beached 50 vessels out of a total of 53 sold for demolition. Greek owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2017: 51 ships in total. Since the Platform’s first compilation of data in 2009, Greek shipping companies have unceasingly topped the list of owners that opt for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking.

 

Despite increased pressure for safe and clean ship recycling from Norwegian investors and authorities, in 2017, the number of Norwegian-owned ships scrapped on the beach was on the rise: 16 ended up in Alang, Gadani and Chittagong. The attempted illegal export of the TIDE CARRIER to Pakistan was stopped by Norwegian authorities following an alert by the Platform.

 

In light of increased pressure from Scandinavian banks and investors, including Norwegian pension funds KLP and NBIM, and ongoing criminal investigations against the owners of TIDE CARRIER, Norwegian ship owners will have to ask themselves whether dirty profits are worth the reputational and financial risk that using beaching facilities now entails. Also, Danish container-giant Maersk will have an increasingly hard time justifying its U-turn back to the beach in Alang, as the yards there will not make it on the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities [1]”, comments Ingvild Jenssen.

 

The worst corporate dumper prize goes to Continental Investment Holdings (CIH), the Singapore-headquartered shipowning arm of Myanmar shipowner Captain U Ko Ko Htoo and parent company of Continental Shipping Line. The company, which is currently changing the composition of its fleet, sold 9 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2017. Four vessels ended up in Bangladesh, where in late December, during the demolition of CIH’s TAUNG GYI STAR, a worker died hit by a falling iron plate.

 

Ranked at second place, the container shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) sold 7 vessels to Indian breakers. In the last nine years, MSC has profited from the sale of more than seventy ships for dirty and dangerous scrapping in Alang.

 

The Japanese owner Mitsui OSK Lines and the UK-based Zodiac Group follow closely with respectively 6 and 5 ships sold to South Asian yards. Zodiac received the worst dumper award in 2016 and sold 4 vessels to the yards in Chittagong despite being under scrutiny after a Bangladeshi worker sought compensation from the company for injuries incurred when breaking the EURUS LONDON.

 

Other known companies that in 2017 opted for substandard yards, rather than recycling their ships in a safe and clean manner, include: Hanjin Shipping, Hansa Mare Reederei, Peter Dohle Schiffahrts, Rickmers Reederei, Hansa Treuhand, Berge Bulk, Costamare, Quantum Pacific Group and Teekay. Teekay had promised to never sell to beaching yards again after a worker died breaking the ASPIRE in 2014 in Chittagong. That Berge Bulk was under the spotlight in December 2016, when it was feared that the Berge Stahl would end up on a beach, did not prevent the company from selling another 5 ships for dirty and dangerous breaking in 2017.


 

With the oil and gas sector seeing a downturn in the last couple of years, the Platform has documented an increase in offshore units that have gone for scrap. Out of the 91 units which have been identified as demolished in the last three years combined, 41 of them ended up on the beaches of South Asia after being towed for thousands of kilometers across the globe. Three floating platforms cold-stacked in Scotland that were sold by Diamond Offshore for scrap in 2017, allegedly to cash buyer GMS, were stopped from leaving following an alert by the Platform on their highly likely illegal export. “Fixed platforms cannot easily escape decommissioning rules, whereas we have seen that nearly half of all floating units slip under the radar and end up on beaches – this double standard has to stop”, states Francesca Carlsson, Corporate Liaison and Policy Officer of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

 

All vessels sold to the beaching yards pass through the hands of scrap dealers known as cash buyers. In this way, ship owners attempt to shield themselves from responsibility, and are paid upfront the highest market price in cash for their end-of-life vessels by the dealers. To reduce costs and to exploit the loopholes in international legislation, cash buyers will change a vessel’s flag to one of the typical last-voyage flags of convenience, such as Comoros, Palau and St Kitts and Nevis. Cash buyers will also register the vessel under a new name and a new post box company, rendering it very difficult for authorities to trace and hold cash buyers and ship owners accountable for illicit business practices.

"Ship-owning companies that stand by their corporate social responsibility directly sign contracts with ship recycling facilities they have inspected and found adequate. Choosing to sell a ship to a facility which is on the EU list of approved yards is the easiest way for a ship owner to be assured that there has been a quality check. Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for ship owners to simply blame the cash buyer: investors and authorities are expecting ship owners to control the choice of the recycling yard, and expect that choice to be a yard that does not endanger workers and the environment [2]."
Francesca Carlsson - Corporate Liaison and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2017, click here.*/**
For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2017, click here.*

 

* The data gathered by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is sourced from different outlets and stakeholders, and is cross-checked whenever possible. The data upon which this information is based is correct to the best of the Platform’s knowledge, and the Platform takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. The Platform will correct or complete data if any inaccuracy is signaled. All data which has been provided is publicly available and does not reveal any confidential business information.

 

**[UPDATE 22 February 2018 - Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company AS informed us that two ships the company owned, the Hurricane I and the Hurricane II, had been sold to a buyer for continued operation in August 2016, one year before they ended up on South Asian beaches. Indeed, the buyer was the Indian registered company Hermes Maritime Services Pvt Ltd, which in 2017 purchased and sold several ships for breaking. Further research revealed that Hermes Maritime Services Pvt Ltd also buys tugboats near the end of their operational lives and manages these to tow vessels to the beaching yards, as was the case for the Hurricane vessels. The Platform has therefore updated the data and changed the ownership of these two vessels to the Indian-based Hermes Maritime Services Pvt]
[UPDATE 23 February 2018 - Italian K-Ships Srl informed us that one ship the company managed, the F1, had been sold to a buyer for continued operation in November 2013, four years before it ended up on a South Asian beach. The documentation provided by K-Ships shows that the Italian company is not linked to the end-of-life sale of the F1. The Platform has therefore rectified the data concerning the beneficial ownership of the vessel]

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] In 2018, the EU will publish a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The list will be the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling.

 

[2] The many scandals involving European shipping companies are also a driver behind the strong interest that various financial institutions have started to show in ship recycling: to ensure responsible business practices, some are now setting criteria for shipping companies they finance, while looking at the EU Ship Recycling Regulation for guidance.

 

Press Release – NGOs and trade unions denounce certification issued to PHP yard by classification society RINA

In October, the PHP Family (Peace Happiness and Prosperity) shipbreaking yard received a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention [1] by the Italian classification society RINA. Trade unions in Bangladesh, as well as the Platform’s member Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies (BILS), are concerned that such a labelling sets a dangerous precedent for the further green-washing of the Chittagong beaching yards. Workers and the environment are not protected as long as ships are broken on the beach, and as long as fundamental labour rights and proper infrastructure are not secured.

 

PHP is run by a renowned business family in Chittagong, who also runs activities in the steel re-rolling and construction industries, and owns TV channels. Trade unions made a formal request to represent the workers at the PHP yard, but the management has systematically rejected the workers’ right to freedom of association, and employees that have strongly engaged in demanding respect of workers’ rights have even been fired. Any worker association or NGO which does not praise PHP is received with hostility and is not even allowed to visit the yard. As reported yesterday by the Platform, accidents at the PHP shipbreaking yard continue to happen.

 

It is shocking that a company that rejects legitimate trade union activities can be stamped as operating in line with international laws”, says Nazim Uddin, local trade union leader and Bangladesh representative at IndustriALL.

 

Despite some investments in the PHP yard to concrete parts of the upper beach, the severe deficiencies in infrastructure for the containment of toxics renders any statement of compliance with pollution prevention standards ludicrous. When vessels are cut in the intertidal zone, toxics are inevitably released in the sea. The entire Chittagong area is heavily polluted, and there is no means for any beaching yard to handle and dispose hazardous waste, such as oil residues, heavy metals and asbestos, in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The Hong Kong Convention’s ship recycling requirements stop at the gate of the yard, therefore the fact that Bangladesh still has no waste treatment facility for general waste, let alone for the toxic materials coming from ships, is completely overlooked by the Convention. Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention are clearly no guarantee that the environment and workers are protected from the many risks connected to the heavy and hazardous industry of ship recycling.

 

That a beaching yard in Chittagong is able to comply with the Hong Kong Convention tells us a lot about the extremely low standard set by the International Maritime Organisation”, said Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Any ship owner looking for a safe and clean location for the recycling of their ship will be wise to disregard the very misleading Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, and instead consult the upcoming EU List of approved ship recycling facilities”, she adds.

 

An aerial view of the PHP shipbreaking yard – 2017 – © Google Earth

* Updated on 26 January 2018 – Quote by Nazim Uddin changed following his request

 

NOTE

 

[1] Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention were first issued to beaching yards by the Japanese company Class NK in Alang, India, last year. Other classification societies, such as RINA and the Indian Ship Registry, have now entered the business of issuing these statements, and a total of 47 yards have received such statements in India, whilst PHP is the first, and so far, the only one in Bangladesh.

 

Press Release – Surge in number of accidents in Bangladesh shipbreaking yards

NGOs call on the Bangladesh government and ship owning nations to hold business accountable

 


UPDATE

PHP shipbreaking yard informed the Platform on 26 January 2018 of the following:

The death of worker Harun Rashid, whose body was found in a pond near the PHP shipbreaking yard, was caused by drowning. PHP informs the Platform: “It is understood from Harun Rashid’s family that around 7:30 p.m. he decided to bathe in a local pond and did not return. His body was discovered the next day at around 10:30 a.m. from the pond. The next of kin of worker Harun Rashid released his body from police custody upon filing an application with the local police station to retrieve his body for burial without post-mortem as there was no reason to believe that he had passed away in anything other than normal circumstances”. According to PHP, Harun Rashid was a casual worker at the PHP shipbreaking yard, and PHP paid a substantial compensation to Harun’s family even though they had no obligations under the law to do so. Also according to PHP, the other worker – also called Harun Rashid – was injured in a traffic accident. PHP informs the Platform: “The incident occurred when the worker was heading home to attend a family emergency, and while crossing the street, he was struck by an oncoming bus. The hit-and-run incident left him with injuries, to recuperate from which, he applied for paid leave to his employer”.


 

Until September the NGO Shipbreaking Platform had observed a decrease in the number of accidents in the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Now, however, the accident rate for the three first quarters of 2017 has surged with 8 injuries and 6 deaths recorded in ten separate incidents in the last two months alone.

 

On 23 October, Jalal, who worked as a cutter man, died struck by a cable at Arafin Enterprise, the yard where the product tanker LOBATO, owned by Petrobras, is currently being scrapped. Despite early warnings to the Brazilian government, the vessel was illegally exported from Brazil for dirty and dangerous scrapping on the beaches of South Asia and arrived in Chittagong in October. Shipbreaking worker Khalil died while working on an oil section of the Indonesian-owned tanker ECHO, beached at Ferdous Steel shipbreaking yard. One more worker was injured in that accident. Mizan, employed by Fahim Enterprise shipbreaking yard, lost his life on 14 November. He fell from the ship LABRI, sold for breaking by the Greek Polys Haji-Ioannou Group, after a fire broke out on the upper deck. Four more workers, who are now supposedly receiving treatment in the BSBA Hospital, suffered injuries due to a fire at Tania Enterprise shipbreaking yard. Moreover, during a nightshift on 4 December, Mojammel suffocated from inhaling toxic gases and then fell, dying on the spot. He was working at the SN Corporation yard on the ship INOX, owned by the Hong Kong-based HNA Group International. According to local sources, Mojammel and his colleagues were oddly sent to start breaking the vessel just a few hours after its beaching.

 

A local newspaper in Chittagong further revealed that the body of a worker, Harun Rashid, was found lifeless in a pond close to the PHP shipbreaking yard. Harun was a permanent staff member of PHP and was working as cutter helper. According to the attendance register, he was present and on duty on the day he was found dead. Harun’s cause of death has not yet been cleared by the police and, despite having paid a lump sum to Harun’s family, PHP’s representatives are silent about the incident. Still at PHP, another worker suffered an injury to his left leg and has spent the last three weeks in the BSBA Hospital for treatment.

 

Details on the remaining 2 injuries and the 1 death at the shipbreaking yards are still unclear.

 

In October, two major accidents also occurred in the steel re-rolling mills that are connected to the shipbreaking yards and where the steel from the ships are re-rolled into steel bars. According to the Bangladesh Insitute of Labour Studies (BILS), on 10 October 4 workers died in GPH Ispat, and less than a week later an accident at SARM re-rolling mill killed 1 worker and injured as many as 9.

 

The working conditions in all the Chittagong shipbreaking yards are deplorable. Claims that the situation in the yards has somewhat improved are misleading: workers are still exposed to enormous risks and are killed because of the lack of basic safety procedures and infrastructure”, says Muhammed Ali Shahin, local contact of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

 

Ship owners that sell their ships for dirty and dangerous breaking are now also being brought to court. On Sunday, The Guardian published an article exposing the human costs of shipbreaking in Bangladesh. Mohamed Edris, who also worked at Ferdous Steel, was severely injured in 2015 while cutting the EURUS LONDON, owned by Zodiac Maritime, and is now seeking compensation in the UK courts from the shipping company. It is the first time that an injured worker demands compensation from a ship owner directly. Zodiac Maritime took the commercial decision to recklessly sell the EURUS LONDON to a beaching yard with the only aim of making a maximum profit, thus consciously neglecting the human rights abuses that shipbreaking in Bangladesh entails. This case could set a precedent for other workers who want to bring the ultimate profit-makers of dangerous and polluting practices to justice.

 

So far this year, 51 out of the total 152 ships that have been beached in Chittagong are owned by European companies. Zodiac has continued to sell its ships to Bangladesh, despite the pending legal case against them, demonstrating that they have no consideration for causing harm as a result of their dirty business. Other big companies, such as Teekay, Berge Bulk and Costamare, have also unscrupulously sold ships to the Chittagong beach this year.

 

One of the Zodiac’s ships currently beached in Bangladesh – 2017 – © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

 

Press Release – Indian authority shuts NGOs out from Alang yards

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform expresses dismay over the continued failure of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to be transparent and to grant civil society access to see the working and environmental conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Alang. For the past two months, the GMB has turned a cold shoulder to repeated requests by the Platform, via the Indian member organisation Toxics Link, to visit the shipbreaking yards on the tidal beach of Alang, where toxic vessels are broken without containment or stable platforms that other recycling methods provide. By refusing to reply to the requests to visit the yards, the GMB has opted to keep the negative environmental and labour impacts of the operations at Alang out of sight.

 

Last year, also the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the Danish shipping line Maersk excluded the Platform from joining field visits they organised to Alang. Maersk recently reversed its ship recycling policy and began breaking ships on the Indian tidal shore. The return to the beach by Maersk has had the devastating effect of legitimising across the industry the beaching method, which inherently pollutes coastal areas and exposes communities to toxins, conditions that the GMB wants to conceal.

 

In dismissing the Platform’s request to visit Alang, the GMB has chosen to protect industry attempts to green-wash the dirty and dangerous breaking of ships on beaches. This lack of openness is disappointing and represents a decision by the GMB to keep Indian ship recycling in the dark ages”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

 

The European Commission is anticipated to prohibit the recycling of EU-flagged ships in beaching yards when it publishes its upcoming list of approved ship recycling facilities in non-EU countries. The EU list represents an important turning point for sustainable ship recycling by setting a benchmark for an industry in which standards have been historically absent.

 

Platform News – NGOs maintain pressure on owners and scrap dealers of FPSO North Sea Producer

 

16 August of last year the FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER was beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The ship was allowed to leave the UK based on the false promise that it would be further operationally used in the Tin Can port in Nigeria. One year on, the battle to hold the owners and cash buyers accountable for the illegal export of the FPSO is not over.

 

The North Sea Producer (ex Dagmar Maersk) was deployed in the McCulloch field in the North Sea, transporting and extracting oil from the UK continental shelf for 17 years, and was owned by the North Sea Production Company, a single-ship joint venture between the Danish A.P. Moeller Maersk and the Brazilian Odebrecht. Once the field closed, the NORTH SEA PRODUCER was laid up in Teesport for a year while the owners were looking for buyers. For scrapping purposes the ship was only allowed to be sold to a facility within the OECD as any export of hazardous waste outside the OECD is in breach of International and EU law. However, selling the FPSO to a recycler that could safely handle all the hazards of the ship within the OECD would have meant that the owners would not have made as big a profit as selling it to less scrupulous breakers operating on tidal beaches in South Asia. Maersk and Odebrecht thus settled to sell the ship to the largest vessels’ scrap dealer, cash buyer GMS, through a St. Kitts and Nevis post box company called Conquistador Shipping Corporation, and provided the UK authorities with a false contract stating that the NORTH SEA PRODUCER had found a new owner who would operate the ship in Nigeria.

 

Despite the vessel being under the radar of local communities in Teesside and was well-known in the shipping industry for needing to be scrapped, the UK authorities relied on the false contract to allow the FPSO to leave on tug. The NORTH SEA PRODUCER was then directly towed all the way from the UK, around the African continent, to Bangladesh. NGOs were quick to alert both the UK and Bangladesh governments of the illegal export [1]. It was only once the FPSO had left the UK – and after the case was strongly criticised in Danish and international press – that Maersk was “very, very sorry” that Conquistador Shipping Corporation apparently took the independent decision to beach the NORTH SEA PRODUCER in Chittagong for dirty and dangerous scrapping. Maersk has since claimed in its Sustainability Report 2016 that it has cut all commercial ties with the buyer of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER: an obviously meaningless statement if that implies cutting ties with a single-ship post box company. Maersk however still refuses to admit that they sold the ship to GMS, the largest waste traffickers in end-of-life ships, as doing so would clearly indicate that they knew all along that the ship would directly head to a scrap yard. It was evident that the bungalow in St Kitts and Nevis, where Conquistador Shipping Corporation was just the shell company set up by GMS to make it look like it was sold to a legitimate buyer, would not further operate the FPSO. Or was Maersk fooled by the tricks of the trade? Did they really believe that the ship would continue to operate under the ownership of the world’s largest scrap dealer? Chances are they were not fooled at all, but were in fact orchestrators of an illegal export alongside GMS.

 

Once the ship arrived at Janata Steel in Chittagong, and upon alerts issued by local NGOs, the Bangladesh Attorney General of the Department of Environment set up a special committee to determine the presence of contaminated residues, and to investigate the ship’s illegal import due to lack of necessary clearances and false claims that it was hazardous-free. Having operated in the North Sea, the vessel’s pipelines are likely to contain residues contaminated by radioactive materials and sulphur. Other toxics, such as asbestos and heavy metals, are contained within the structure and paints of the ship. Upon a request from the Platform’s member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), the report on the ship’s condition was released in June: it’s conclusion was that radioactive residues were found upon inspection and that further surveys needed to be carried out on the whole ship. BELA subsequently succeeded in getting an injunction on the breaking of the North Sea Producer until October, which is when the Court will resume the case after the Eid recess.

The North Sea Producer beached in Chittagong – © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In the UK, the Platform demanded the Secretary of State for Environment, Andrea Leadsom, to investigate the illegal export from Teesport [2]. DEFRA has been looking into the case for nine months now, and the Platform recently requested that they share information on their findings and on the action which they will be taking against the fraudulent and illegal export. In parallel Danish parliamentarians have been questioning the Environment Minister, Esben Lunde Larsen, on what actions Denmark can take to hold Maersk accountable.

 

One year on since the beaching of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER, the story is thus far from over. One year on and there are legal proceedings in the exporting state, the UK, and the importing state, Bangladesh, to hold Maersk, Odebrecht, GMS and the importers accountable for their illegal trade of a highly toxic and particularly risky ship to dismantle.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] See our release.

 

[2] Read the letter.

 

Press Release – Platform supports banks’ introduction of responsible ship recycling standards

And another worker dies in May at Chittagong yard with an appalling accident record

 

Today, during the first day of NOR-Shipping in Oslo, Dutch banks ABN AMRO, ING Bank and NIBC, together with the Scandinavian DNB, announced that they are all introducing Responsible Ship Recycling Standards (RSRS) for their ship financing. The banks took the opportunity of making this announcement during the biannual industry gathering in order to raise awareness with the intention of including more banks into the initiative. The Norwegian fund, KLP, who in 2016 commissioned a report by the International Law and Policy Institute on shipbreaking, had also already taken a stance to reject beaching practices.

 

A collective move to include ship recycling conditions on loans by leading banks and financial institutions with large shipping portfolios is a positive step to imposing responsible practices on ship owners. When there is pressure for change coming from shipping financers, who understand that they have a direct tangible impact on the shipping industry, ship owners, rather than finding crafty loopholes in the law, will feel the bite if they do not choose to recycle responsibly off the beach.

"We welcome the leading role taken by the banks to ensure a departure from the unnecessarily dirty and dangerous practice of beaching, and expect that investors and clients of shipping that are increasingly pushing for higher standards for ship recycling will join the initiative."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform